The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 192

from the burning Temple of Issus.

A draught from above brought the fumes of smoke to our nostrils. As we
stood waiting for Xodar the smoke became thicker and thicker.
Presently we heard shouting at the far end of the corridor, and
hurrying feet.

"Come back, John Carter, come back!" cried a voice, "even the pits are
burning."

In a moment a dozen men broke through the now blinding smoke to my
side. There was Carthoris, and Kantos Kan, and Hor Vastus, and Xodar,
with a few more who had followed me to the temple court.

"There is no hope, John Carter," cried Xodar. "The keeper of the keys
is dead and his keys are not upon his carcass. Our only hope is to
quench this conflagration and trust to fate that a year will find your
Princess alive and well. I have brought sufficient food to last them.
When this crack closes no smoke can reach them, and if we hasten to
extinguish the flames I believe they will be safe."

"Go, then, yourself and take these others with you," I replied. "I
shall remain here beside my Princess until a merciful death releases me
from my anguish. I care not to live."

As I spoke Xodar had been tossing a great number of tiny cans within
the prison cell. The remaining crack was not over an inch in width a
moment later. Dejah Thoris stood as close to it as she could,
whispering words of hope and courage to me, and urging me to save
myself.

Suddenly beyond her I saw the beautiful face of Phaidor contorted into
an expression of malign hatred. As my eyes met hers she spoke.

"Think not, John Carter, that you may so lightly cast aside the love of
Phaidor, daughter of Matai Shang. Nor ever hope to hold thy Dejah
Thoris in thy arms again. Wait you the long, long year; but know that
when the waiting is over it shall be Phaidor's arms which shall welcome
you--not those of the Princess of Helium. Behold, she dies!"

And as she finished speaking I saw her raise a dagger on high, and then
I saw another figure. It was Thuvia's. As the dagger fell toward the
unprotected breast of my love, Thuvia was almost between them. A
blinding gust of smoke blotted out the tragedy within that fearsome
cell--a shriek rang out, a single shriek, as the dagger fell.

The smoke cleared away, but we stood gazing upon a blank wall. The
last

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